See in contrast Shepard (1962), Vicinus (1974) and Neuburg (1977) ; Perrot (1983), Anderson (1991), Gatrell (1994) and Kalifa (1995).
Broadsides collection, Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Collection of Miscellaneous Broadsides, Chiefly Relating To Birmingham, Birmingham Central Library. A Collection of Ballads Printed In London, Formed By Thomas Crampton, British Library, London.
The former were biographies of criminals awaiting capital execution in the London prison of Newgate (on the roof of which the hangings took place) ; presented as « confessions » or « complaints », they were published in a more or less romanticized or sensationalized fashion by the chaplain, or « Ordinary », on the day after the execution. The latter narrated the most famous trials held at the London Central Criminal Court (they were also known as The Malefactors' Register) ; published from 1774 onwards - and regularly brought up-to-date until the beginning of the twentieth century -, it soon superseded the Accounts in fame and fortune. See Faller (1987) and Rawlings (1992).
See mainly Faller (1987), Rawlings (1992, p. 3-7), Gatrell (1994, p. 156-160, 168-175).
E. g. Jemmy Catnach, who was the most successful London-based broadside printer of the first half of the nineteenth-century, used to write parts of his production himself if the case was needed (Gatrell, 1994, p. 160).
Especially when compared to the more openly direspectful « flash ballads » of the eigteenth century : see, notably, Gatrell (1994, 109 sqq.).
Address, Or Warning To The Young, By The Unfortunate Men, Now Under Sentence Of Death, Who Are To Be Executed On Wednesday The 3d Of November Next, For Various Crimes, Published As A Warning To The Rising Generation, To Beware Of The First Beginnings Of Evil (« printed for the Book Cryers », not dated).
A Copy Of Verses On Those Three Unfortunate Men, J. Bingley, 31, William Dutton, 36, & William Batkin, 40, Who Were Executed At Warwick, On Friday, May 25, 1821, For Forgery (Wright, printer) ; Life, Trial & Execution Of Mr. Fauntleroy. Who Suffered On Tuesday, November 30, 1824, At The Old Bailey, London, For Forgery (Heppel, printer).
Lives, Trial, And Execution Of Joseph Higgs, Aged 23, Edward Taylor, 19, And Edward Hines, 28, Who Suffered At Warwick, August 11, 1826, For Burglary (Heppel, printer).
A True Account Of The Life, Trial, Aad (sic) Execution, With He Dying Confession Of Huffam White & Robert Kendall, Who Were Executed At Northampton, On Friday, August 1th, 1813, For Robbing The Leeds Mail Coach (Wood, printer).
The Life And Political Execution Of Richard Magpie, Who Was Executed At The New Drop, Opposite The Church Yard, In Temple Row, Last Night, With His Full Confession To The Mob Underneath (Vale, printer, not dated).
Nine in fact, since the broadside Affecting Copy of Verses On the Diabolical Murder Committed By Richard Andrews Who Burnt His Child ALIVE ! In Vale-street, Birmigham (H. Barber, printer, not dated) features a woodcut of a jail, complete with its grid and crenellated towers, as a grim allusion to the place where the execution was bound to take place.
See, for instance, the difference in the narrative structures of these two broadsides : « The execution of the unfortunate boy, who expiated his enormous guilt on the scaffold before he had completed his fourteenth year, took place in front of our county gaol this monday, having been found guilty of the murder of a youth named Taylor, in a wood near Rochester, in March last. Taylor, the father of the deceased, being very ill, received 9 s. per week from the parish of Aylesford, which his the lad (sic) used to fetch every week ; this being known to Bell, he and his two sons way-laid him on his return home and murdered him. Old Bell was sentenced to be banished life, the other admitted evidence, and John to be executed » The Life, Trial and Awful Execution of John Any Bird Bell, Only Thirteen Years of Age (Birmingham, R. Heppel, printer, 1831). And : « On Tuesday last, Mr. Humphreys, coroner, held an inquest at the Ranelagh Arms, Wood Green, relative to the death of Mr. William D. Boyd, aged 35, and Maria Death aged 26. Thomas Hinson, a carpenter, deposed - My son, Frederick Hinson, lived with the young woman, Maria Death, for seven years' past. He had two or three children by her, one of whom is now living. He was married, but his wife left him eight years ago. (...) Isabella Heppel housekeeper to Boyd, deposed to the prisoner, Hinson, throwing her master backwards out of the stable, then put his foot on his chest, and then struck his head four times in succession with a gun barrel. My master was killed instantly ». Frightful Murder Of A Woman And Her Paramour (London, Disley, printer, not dated, but the case was tried in 1869 ; Public Record Office - hereafter PRO - Criminal records, Crim. 10/59).
See detailed figures in Gatrell (1980).
And occasionally to its tensions : in the broadside Barbarous Murder Of A Child By A Schoolmistress (Disley, printer, not dated), most of the prose text relates the coroner's inquest, when the coroner and the jury disagreed over the verdict : « At the coroner's inquest it was given evidence that the child had been beaten on the head with a heavy flint stones (sic) and its tongue cut completely out at the root. It was found wrapped up in another part of the drawer where the body was discovered. The inquiry lasted four hours and a-half, and resulted, in the first instance, in a verdict, 'That the child was born alive and murdered by some one'. The Coroner pointed out that the evidence was conclusive against Emma Pitt, the national schoolmistress, who was the mother of the child, and he expressed his surprise that such a verdict should have been returned. The jury after reconsidering their previous finding, returned a verdict of 'Wilful murder against Emma Pitt' ».
For the importance of the printed image in the success of this kind of publication, see Anderson (1991, chap. 4-6).
« John Andrews, blocker, of New Town street, was charged with killing and siaying (sic) Hannah Andrews, his wife, at Luton, on the 10th of February ». (Shocking Murder Of A Wife, At Luton, Disley, printer, not dated) ; « A most atrocious murder was committed on Monday night at Todmorden by a weaver of checks, named Miles Wheatherhill » (Conviction & Lamentation Miles Weatherhill For The Murder At Todmorden, idem) ; « On Monday morning last, a terrible tragedy took place in Hosier-lane, City, in which a man named Duggin, his wife, and six children were found poisoned » (Shocking Murder Of A Wife And Six Children, idem), etc.
Gatrell (1994, p. 177).
Neuburg (1973, p. 199).
The homicide rate for England and Wales hovered between 1 and 1.5 per 100,000 for most of the 19th century ; see Gatrell (1980), and Emsley (1996).
Location of crimes referred to in Glasgow broadsides : Scotland (4), London (4), rest of England (2), abroad (1).
Location of crimes referred to in Birmingham broadsides : Birmingham and rest of Warwickshire (12), Northamptonshire (1), London and SE England (3), abroad (1).
Location of crimes referred to in London broadsides : London (9), London area (9), Midlands (3), Northern England (4), Western England (2).
It refers actually to the first murders, of the four members of the Marr household, on the night of the 7-8 December 1811 ; a second family, the Williamsons, was murdered on the night of the 19 December. An Account Of The Dreadful Murder of Mr. Timothy Marr, His Wife, An Infant About Three Months Old, And An Apprentice Boy, About Fourteen Years Of Age, On Sunday Morning Last, The 8th Of December, 1811, In Their Dwelling-House, Ratcliffe High-Way, London (Edimburgh, Thomas Duncan, printer).
Trader John Bellingham had shot Spencer Perceval in the House of Commons. An Account Of The Execution, Dying Declaration, And Particular Behaviour Of John Bellingham, Who Was Hanged, At London, On Monday The 18th Of May 1812, Pursuant To His Sentence, For The Horrid And Inhuman Murder Of The Honourable Mr. Perceval (Thomas Duncan, printer). Bellingham's fame is highlighted in Gatrell (1994, notably p. 103).
Life, Trial And Execution of Mr. Fountleroy (op. cit.).
Gatrell (1994, p. 387).
Esther Hibner was tried for having ill-treated to death her 10-year-old female apprentice. Trial And Execution of Esther Hebner (sic), Hanged at Newgate, On Monday, April 13th, 1829, For The Murder Of her Female Apprentice (Heppel, printer).
The Life, Trial, And Execution of John Any Bird Bell (op. cit.).
The culprit is identified with certainty in all the broadsides but two ; in one case, the narrative alludes to suspects being « apprehended on the charge » (Horrid Outrage And Murder Of A Female, At Cleveland).
Address, Or Warning To The Young (op. cit.).
« The younger Hibner had taken the deceased from the frame, and knocked her down again ; when the elder prisoner was told that the deceased was lying in the room ill, she replied 'let her lie there'. The deceased, when in that state that she could scarcely crawl about the house, was told by the younger Hibner to clean the stairs ; she attempted to do it, but fell exhausted ; the younger Hibner, then took her upstairs and flogged her, and afterwards sent her down to finish the stairs (...) The medical gentlemen proved that the feet and toes of the deceased were mortifying and falling from the ill treatment she had experienced, and for want of proper nourishment ».
See Appendix 4.
In England and Wales as a whole, they amounted in 1860 to 11 per cent of murders (Emsley, 1996), and, in London, to 27 per cent of homicides put to trial in 1860-1900 (Chassaigne, 1993).
One interesting exception - but the one that proves the rule - is a curious tract from the Crampton collection entitled Wholesale Poisoning Case In The County Of Durham. Alleged Murder of Twenty Persons. The murderer, a Mary Cotton, is accused of having done it for the money : « In the different places she lived the deaths have been numerous with those about her [it happens that there were in fact seven victims, not 20], and small sums in most cases were obtained from burial societies ». If the murders are « alledged », the case is perfectly plausible : such practices were rather common, especially when the life of infants was insured (Rose, 1986).
An Account Of A Horrid And Bloody Murder, Committed On The Body Of James Buchanan, Carrier Between Lanark and Glasgow, In The House Of James M'Kean Shoemaker, High-Street Glasgow, On Friday Night The 7th Of October 1796 (8th October 1796, no printer).
Horrid Outrage And Murder Of A Female (London, Disley, printer, op. cit.).
Horrible And Atrocious Murder Of A Woman At Wednesbury, And Committal Of William Hall, For The Murder (London, Disley, printer, not dated).
This last aspect has been especially highlighted in Tomes (1978).
Only two sound as complete hoaxes right from the start and can be regarded as survivors from the early modern "cocks » - i.e. entirely invented stories : Account Of One Of The Most Horrid Murder Committed By A Beggar Man Ever Recorded, which was printed in Glasgow by W. Carse probably in the early 1820s, narrates a complicated and unbelievable third-hand story, reprinted from the Literary Melange, and said to have taken place in Smolensk. The second is from the Birmingham collection : Awful Execution Of Jno. Meux. A Most Horrid Monster ! (Heppel, printer, late 1824-early 1825) is a report of a French case of a beggar ( ?) who, on November 5, 1824, raped and murdered a Laura Vipont near Nîmes - then drank her blood and ate a piece of her body ! But the murderer is condemned to be "strangulated and afterwards hung in chains », a form of punishment that had disappeared since the French Revolution...
I quote directly from Neuburg (1973, p. 194).
« Shocking Murder Of 7 Persons At Denham, Near Uxbridge », « Committal Of A. Norman, A Girl, Aged 15 Years, Charged With Murdering 4 Children & Attempt On Another », « Wholesale Poisoning Case In The County Of Durham. Alleged Murder Of Twenty Persons », etc.
As, for instance, in Verses On The Four Murdered Children ! (Birmingham, Wright, printer, 1847) :
« The sharpen'd razor, one by one, / The fatal aim she drew,
Until the horrid work was done/ She no compassion knew,
Those lips that sweetly said 'Good Night'/ But a few hours before,
Now prest, and bleached deadly white,/ Will never whisper more !
The flickering candle cast a light/ More horrid than the gloom,
Which did reveal the fearful sight/ That filled the blood-stained room.
Then stung with madness at the thought/ She crouched on the ground
She placed a razor to her throat/ And made a fatal wound.
The Mother and the Murderess! - / (How awful is the sound !)
No pious priest her clay will bless/ Nor place in sacred ground !
The night-winds groan around her grave / And screech-owls are her knell
Rank weeds above her grave will wave/ And scorn her history tell. »
Barbarous Murder Of A Child... (op. cit.).
Dreadful Murder Of A Boy At Haversham, In Buckinghamshire, <nd Trial And Sentence Of William Mobbs, For The Murder Of J. Newbury At Haversham, In Buckinghamshire (London, Disley, printer, not dated) ; see Appendix 1.
An Account Of The Dreadful Murder Of Mr. Timothy Marr (op. cit.) ; records dealing with the Ratcliffe highway murders are available at PRO, Home Office records, H.0.42/118-120 ; see also James and Critchley (1971). The Life, Trial, and Awful Execution of John Any Bird Bell... (op. cit.) ; the case is related in Gatrell (1994). Horrible Murder By A Clergyman At Stockwell And Confession Of The Murderer, and Trial And Sentence Of The Rev. John S. Watson, For The Murder Of His Wife (London, Disley, printer), not dated, but the case was tried at London Central Criminal Court in December 1871 ; PRO, Crim. 10/61.
We follow the particulars of the case as presented in Gatrell (1994, p. 1-5).
E.G.Wakefield, The Hangman and the Judge, or A Letter from Jack Ketch to Mr. Justice Alderson, London, 1933, quoted in Gatrell (1994).
Cf. Appendix 2.
The vignette is reproduced in Gatrell (1994, p. 5).
Who was not Birmingham-based : the opening line says the execution « took place in front of our county gaol » ; the broadside was then a reprint of a text written in Kent. This lifts a veil on a littleknown aspect of the broadsides business, their commercial circuit.
« ... he and his two sons way-laid him on his return home and murdered him ». Grammar is useless in finding out who actually killed the victim.
« ... the hardihood which he had hitherto manifested... » ; « He said that when he sprung upon Taylor with the knife in his hand, the poor boy, aware of his murderous intention, fell upon his knees before him (...). But the only anwer this precocious assassin go to this touching appeal was by plunging the knife into his victim's throat ! ».
« In vain the victim of my rage implor'd my hand to stay/ He knelt in deep distress to me, my anger to allay,/ I'll give you all my victim cried, if you spare my life » ; « But nothing would my feelings touch his cries availed nought,/ For out my sharpen'd knife I took and plunge into his throat », « The voice of blood at length was heard & I am doom'd to die/ For mercy which I have denied, to thee, O God ! I cry ».
See note 44 above.
« Bourgeois » and « popular » are taken here in their most general sense. See a recent epitome of the question in Anderson (1991).
Address, Or Warning To The Young (op. cit.).
« May the young and old a warning take, / And think of my unhappy fate/ You married women who see me die, / Unto the Lord I would have you cry,/ To make you chaste and loving wives,/ Then you'll enjoy sweet happy lives » in The Confession And Sorrowful Lamentation Of John Lomas (Edim-burgh, 1814). But men are also addressed to : "It is declaired by the Almighty God in the volume of inspaird, that whoremongers and adultries he will judge, and sad and a full is the sentence such are without the gates of the kingdom of heaven » in Murder. A Full And Particular Account Of The Murder Of George Stirling (Glasgow, not dated).
« And mind what I say, married women don't stray,/ Like this ill-fated pair at Woodgreen J And husbands also, I'd have you to know,/ That our duty is to forgive/ And try in this life to avoid bloodshed and strife » in Frightful Murder Of A Woman And Her Paramour (op. cit.).
« Poor creature, she gave way to drink/ Which caused her ultimate fate,/ And she did not see her folly,/ Until it was too late » in Horrible And Atrocious Murder Of A Woman At Wednesbury (op. cit.), or « Cruel Drink, has made unhappy,/ many, many happy homes » in Lines Written On The Condemnation Of Jeremiah Corkery (Birmingham, Sansom, printer, 1875) among many others.
With a constant use of understatement : « And if guilty found, he'll die for the deed », « He's not a man he is a demon/ And deserves a murderer's fate », « This sad and atrocious murderer/ Will meet his downfall », etc. Some criminals themselves were less cautious, and when the judicial archives have kept their declarations, some of them profess not to be afraid of « swinging* for their deed.
Last Speech, Confession, And Dying Word Of Margaret Sinclair, Midwife, Who Was Executed At Durham, On Thursday The 24th Of August, For The Murder Of Jane Parkinson, And Her Child, In Her Delivery (Glasgow, Johnson, printer).
« I, Margaret Sinclair, was born at Auckland of very honest and creditable parents (...) but I soon forgot the precepts they laid down for me, ang gave way to vice (...) through too much indulgence of my parents, in every thing I wanted » in Last Speech (op. cit.). « He reproached her with 'bringing him to his present scrape' by encouraging him in every species of vice, and neglecting to mature his mind » in The Life, Trial And Confession of John Any Bird Bell (op. cit.).
Lives, Trial And Execution Of Joseph Higgs, Aged 23, Edward Taylor, 19, And Edward Hines, 28, Who Suffered At Warwick August 11, 1826, For Burglary (Birmingham, Heppel, printer).
« ...Yet the gaols of these adjoining counties [Staffordshire and Warwickshire] are as rapidly filling as ever - murder and plunder are populating their cells, and the dreadful engine of law will but have a few months respite, before it is again drawn forth to libel civilization, and terminate the career of some flagrant offender » ; « All these unfortunate men are natives of Birmingham ; here they were early initiated into these vices which have led hem progressively step by step to the ignominious death they have suffered ».
The number of people committed for trial in England and Wales rose (in round figures) from 6,000 in 1815 to 15,000 in 1825 (Emsley, 1996) ; see also Radzinowicz and Hood (1990).
See Chassaigne (1993).
The Confession And Sorrowful Lamentation Of John Lomas (op. cit. ).
It is also of some significance that the only case when a coroner presses a Grand Jury to reconsider its verdict to render a more severe one happens at the indictment of a schoolmistress accused of the murder of her child (Barbarous Murder Of A Child By A Schoolmistress, op. cit.).
Hoggart (1970), Swingewood (1979), Bailey (1987), Anderson (1991).
See of course the famous description of the 'Sellers of street literature' given by Henry Mayhew (1861-2, vol.1, p. 221-230).
« Good people all I pray draw near/ Of a wholesale murder you shall hear »,« Draw near all you married and single men too,/ This deed I so dreadful will tell », « Good Christians who around do dwell,/Lend an attentive ear », etc.
This was the time of « the rise of the policeman state » (Gatrell, 1990). The broadside Life, Trial, And Execution of John Higgs (op. cit.) is an extreme illustration of it : it is a long narrative of the trial from beginning to end, and includes a lively but rather technical passage about the prisoners' defence : « The prisoners persisted to the last that no pistol was fired, and say the mark on a cannister, was produced by them throwing a crow-bar, and not the indentation of a bullet. The High Sheriff, with praise-worthy assiduity, humanely exerted all his influence to save the lives of the unfortunate men, conceiving that the noise made by the bar striking the cannister, might have been taken for the report of a pistol. He caused the cannister to be fired at ; but in each case it has failed to produce a mark like the one that is the ground of so much dispute ». The reader is really transported in the court room, and understands that the life of the three burglars depends on a pistol being shot, i.e. their intention to take any opponent's life to perpetrate their deed. But its dramatic interest is null ; and then 'educating' was probably its real purpose.
Their trial was held in September 1870 at the London Central Criminal Court ; PRO, Crim. 10/59.
Margaret Waters was arrested because she was under suspicion of practicing abortions in her lyingin house. She was charged with murder after her most recent 'acquisition', a 4-week-old baby boy, died two weeks after her arrest.
See Appendix 4.
The case is fully exposed in Rose (1986).
An Account Of The Execution... Of John Bellingham (op. cit.).
« Sheriff Heygate - 'Then it was your own affair - it was from personal resentment' - Bellingham appeared hurt at the latter expression, and after repeating the words - 'personal resentment,' with an indignant, or rather dignified tone, said, 'I bore no resentment to Mr. Perceval as a man - and, as a man, I am sorry for his fate. I was referred from Minister to Minister, from Office to Office and at length refused to redress for my grievances. It was my own sufferings that caused the melancholy event ; and I hope it will be a warning to future Ministers who attend to the supplications and prayers of those who suffer by oppression. And my petition been brought into Parliament this catastrophe would not have happened. I am sorry for the sufferings I have caused to Mr. Perceval's family and friends.' (...) Sheriff Heygate - 'I hope you feel deep contrition for the deed.' Upon which the prisoner (assuming an attitude of considerable dignity) said - 'I hope, Sir, I feel as a man ought to do.' Sheriff Heygate - 'You know, that to take away the life of a man unlawfully is a heinous crime.' Bellingham - "The Scriptures, you know, Sir, say that' ».
An Account Of That Cruel And Barbarous Murder Which Was Committed On The Body Of Mary Minton, Aged 19 In The Entry Leading To Her Father's House, № 24, Union-Street, London, On Saturday The 14th Of February, By William Hatch (Glasgow, printer ?).
See Kalifa (1995).
Life, Trial And Execution Of Mr. Fauntleroy (op. cit.).
See Gatrell (1994, p. 409). This broadside is undoubtedly a by-product of this campaign, itself part of a wider one that Quaker reformers orchestrated against capital punishment ; Gatrell argues that the campaign in favour of Fauntleroy was rather artificial and gathered impetus only « when it was sure that he would die » (op. cit., p. 409), but it does not diminish the intrinsic value of the broadside.
« During the last night, he slept about an hour, and was visited at intervals by the Rev. Dr. Cotton, and Mr Baker. He expressed his belief in Christ's attonement - he seemed anxious for the final hour to arrive, and when he received the Sacrement, his heart overflowed with gratitude, and the tears ran incessantly down his face. A little before 8, the Officers demanded his body - he cheerfully said 'I am quite ready !' and taking the arm of the chaplain, proceeded towards the place of execution ».
Dreadful Murder At Eriswell. Confession Of One Of The Prisoners (London, Disley, printer, not dated).
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